Frank and Lara Faulkner welcome visitors through the back entrance of their Locust Point rowhouse because parking is more convenient there and the area is a neighborhood gathering spot.
"Our front is the back [of the house]," Frank Faulkner says, laughing.
The contradiction bears a simple explanation. A wide alley behind Woodall Street adjoins both the Amoco station on Key Highway and a large, grassy area where neighbors meet for picnics and parties. And from the alley, homeowners often greet company by the gates of their manicured back yards.
The back entrance to the Faulkner home faces west, and it consists of a two-story, cinder-block-and-stucco addition. It has added one-third more space to the 1,512-square-foot structure. Inside the door, open space dominates: White walls throughout provide an expansive -- and uninterrupted -- view to the end of the first level.
In the family room, an orange-painted, wood coffee table rests in front of a low-backed sofa donned in royal blue microfiber. A side chair in coral polyester faces the table, its silver threads catching the soft glow from a fuzzy, lemon-yellow shade on a corner lamp. Perfectly proportioned for the space, the suite is completed by a barrel chair in a shell-tapestry pattern of blue and gold.
"This is our I Love Lucy furniture," notes Lara, 33, a shoe buyer for Nordstrom. "We got it from Nouveau [Contemporary Goods Inc.] on Charles Street."
Beyond the room, a 1950s diner-like counter juts from the north wall with a shiny, black Corian surface. Below it sit three chrome, red-vinyl-topped stools and a black-and-white ceramic tile. White cabinets, one with glass doors, hang on opposite walls, coordinating with white appliances. Other kitchen gadgets such as the blender are in chrome, which finishes off the sleek look.
Frank Faulkner, 43, a self-employed property developer, began gutting the 100-year-old structure shortly after Lara (then his fiancM-ie) purchased it in August 2000 for $106,000.
"We wanted space and flow," he explains, "... and so, I began knocking out walls."
Pergo wood flooring was added throughout the ground level, broken only by the glimmer of the kitchen's tile. Recessed lighting produces a pleasant contrast between white walls and dark-stained planks.
Illustrating a "before and after" scenario, his wife produces photographs of the home three years ago. Her narration is reminiscent of many downtown homesteaders' stories.
"Ugh, the house was broken up into little rooms, the original paneling was dark, and see here," she grimaces, slapping a photo on the counter, "drop ceilings."
The living room, or what one might have called the front parlor, is a whimsical study in primary colors and deco design. A heavy, aluminum lawn set dates to the 1930s and includes ornate cutout designs. A green glider has been placed at an angle opposite two armchairs -- one bright orange, the other fluorescent yellow. All three pieces rest atop a faux-leopard rug, with a marble-topped, wrought-iron coffee table at its center.
"The original staircase to the second level is oak and fairly beaten up," her husband notes. "And so we've put Berber [carpeting] on the steps."
The second-floor open landing features solid oak doors with their original glass knobs, which he salvaged from a Bethesda house before it was demolished. These doors grace the linen closet and dual bathrooms along the light-gray carpeted hallway.
Gray also is carried over to the walls of the master bedroom. The bedroom set is two-toned, inlaid birch and deco in style. The window presents a view of the Inner Harbor's busy west wall and the traffic activity along Key Highway.
The guestroom at the east end of the floor showcases a wrought-iron canopy bed decorated with a fanned quilt of purples and oranges. Lara Faulkner's decorating flair is evident here, especially on the salmon-colored walls, which she decorated with faux marble.
"A cozy room," she says, "... for our overnight company."
Moving toward the top of the home, her husband leads the way past open risers to a tiny rooftop structure, which barely houses a window and door. Beyond the door, the harbor's vista can be seen from a pair of yellow-railed decks.
Leaning at the rail of the eastern deck, he talks of the rehab that took 18 months and $65,000. This amount paid for central air installation, the two-story addition, the dry walls, and -- of course -- the rooftop retreat over the city that the Faulkners love.
"Looking at a lot of downtown rowhouses, it has always been hard for me to see what can be done," said Mike Evitts, Frank's brother-in-law, who also is the public relations director for the Downtown Partnership.
"I love their house. It's very nice to see that kind of transformation."